Sam Douglas – Distiller at Tamnavulin

Over the past few years i have managed to chat/ interview some very interesting people within the industry. These people have ranged from Ambassadors who are constantly found at festivals, private tastings and talking about whisky at the countless number of shops/ outlets that are found around the world, not only that they have to find time to talk whisky to anyone who wants to listen, this job is not always as glamorous as one would think !! Then we have those who fill their days making whisky, these are often long, tiring, dirty days with extreme temperatures, if working within the distillery itself to freezing temps in the warehouses, not to mention the times when it might be chucking it down and the jobs to be done mean you are working outside again…

What is often forgotten is this work can and is carried out by male and female operatives, gone are the days when it could only be done by a man !! Women are proving ( not that they should have to but unfortunately they do ) they are just as adept at doing these jobs as us men and after all they are drinking the stuff ( O wait, you do realise they actually drink whisky too !! Or do you still believe whisky is a man’s drink ? ) It is always a pleasure to highlight the jobs these people do, and when i say people i mean all genders, all people without exception !! There is no rules within the industry as to who can make whisky, if you think there is or there should be then this blog is not for you.

So todays chat is with Sam, yes Sam is a woman and yes she does make whisky… Do you need time to pick up your dram ? If the answer was yes then i have no sympathy. Sam makes quality whisky and that is all that is important, so without anymore from me please let me welcome my latest guest on the ” A day in the life” series Sam Douglas..

Sam Douglas – A day in the life..

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Please introduce yourself..

Hi, I’m Sam Douglas and I’m a Distiller here at Tamnavulin, based in Speyside. 

Please could you give us a brief indication about your day to day job within the distillery

In my job, I have responsibility for the day to day running of the distillery. This means everything from making sure that the team have everything they need: from the raw materials used to the training to continue the production of our signature spirit. I work very closely with Jo Reavley, Tamnavulin’sDistillery Manager.

Please can you explain a little about your journey into the whisky industry.

I’m originally from just outside Glasgow, where I started working in the supply chain of another large drinks company, shipping finished cased stock all over the globe. But, when I saw the passion and expertise required to make single malt, I knew that distilling was where I wanted to be, so after a few project roles, the opportunity of a move to Speyside came up and I jumped at the chance.

Do you feel you have been treated differently in the whisky industry because you are female? If so, how?

Being treated differently happens less and less often. I’m always called Sam and not Samantha, so the first time I meet or speak to someone that I’ve only spoken to over e-mail, they sometimes are surprised because they’ve assumed by my name that I’m a man. I’ve also had instances where people have met me on site and thought I was “just the office girl” – but they realise that’s not the case pretty quickly! That being said, people are in general great to work with.

What made you want to get involved with whisky?

The passion and expertise that people working our theindustry have is infectious. It inspires and makes you want to get involved.

What opportunities were available to you to get involved? 

I was lucky that the company I started with had a broad range of operations, so I could reach out and speak to people across the business to learn more about the processes.

I was also able to take a secondment into a role on Speyside to see if I liked the area, but these types of opportunity are rare.

What do you feel we as an industry could do better to recruit more females into the industry 

Promote more women into operational roles and in return, more women will apply. People respond positively to seeing someone like them in a place or role. It helps them to see themselves there too.

What experience / advice would you offer others wanting to get involved in the industry?

Be tenacious! Don’t be afraid to ask questions – but also don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. Asking people for help or advice is how we all learn.

How can we start to tackle the issue of sexism in the industry?

Acknowledging there is an issue is a good first step, and then taking action knowing that it is unacceptable should follow. We need to work with people based on their unique abilities, experience, and knowledge – what they can bring to the role. Gender shouldn’t impact decision making.

What ambitions do you have for the future?

Continuing to make our signature Speyside malt – and watching Tamnavulin continue to grow as a brand enjoyed all around the world.

What is your favourite dram?

That very much depends on the situation and the weather! In the summer I really enjoy a Tamnavulin Red Wine Finish mixed in a refreshing Highball. In the winter, you can’t go wrong with a Tamnavulin Sherry Finish on its own, sipped by a roaring fire.

My gratitude goes out to Sam for taking the time to answer these questions and help promote Women within whisky.. This will one day be just a normal everyday experience but until that day comes please take the time to help educate each other and don’t ever be afraid to call anyone out who thinks differently. It may be a simple mistake or it might be prejudice, either way a little education can never hurt..

And to Sam and the many other people within this industry, please keep on doing the jobs you do so well and carry on making more wonderful whisky for us all to drink..

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